Friday, 27 April 2012

OccupyBB7: An Artivist Movement

You're looking for a coffee one day, in the Mitte.  After checking out a new(ish) coffee joint that one of your blog readers recommended to you and discovering that it has no internet access, you decide to try another place.

You end up passing, and then turning round and heading back into, a courtyard with a cafe in it in Auguststrasse 69.  After a few hours of 'social networking' online, you walk into the gallery space at the back of the courtyard.  You are just having a peek out of curiosity, but as you walk down the corridor - which is covered in protest posters and stencils - and step out onto the landing, overlooking a cavernous gallery space, you feel drawn to continue.  The space below is hung with banners, draped with curtains and lanterns and posters and a big army tent.  It looks like an exhibit of an activist camp except, instead of dummies holding cameras, you see live people walking around, talking, playing music. 

You walk down the stairs into the space, passing under a banner that reads: "das ist keine Museeum" (This is not a museum).  It seems ironic.  After all, this is a space is a gallery, and laid out like a classical display.  The camp seems as if it merely represents the concept of 'involvement'.  Is it saying that even the idea of being involved (in politics, community, life, or whatever) is something to be observed from a distance?  If it is, then it may be the single most perfect statement about this current phase of Berlin culture... and Western culture, too.

Welcome to the new home of the Occupy movement in Berlin. It's also the temporary home of Mai15 (?) from Spain and assorted other outposts of the Occupy movement worldwide. It looks like an activist camp but due to its location in a gallery, the installation is walking a fine line between exhibitionism and activism.  Kind of like the city  it finds itself in.

Berlin is a place where people come to glimpse the alternative; to observe, spectate and speculate upon the idea of interactive city living. The idea of resistance. But even as the tourist masses swell, so do the activist movements that drew those masses shrink.  Depending upon what happens in the next 2 months OccupyBB7 could go either way, becoming a serious activist centre, a living piece of social theatre, a piece of conceptual art depicting the reality of Berlin... or all three.  The deciding factors will surely be: Who goes there, what they do there, and how much (or little) they contribute to the space's development. 

Check out OccupyBB7 for yourself at Auguststrasse 69 until the end of June.

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